A taut, compact ghost story that also manages to weave a satisfying tale of psychological descent, 1408 may not offer much new to Stephen King fans, but it does manage to quicken the pulse more than a few times during its terse 94-minute running time. While many longtime King devotees may regard 1408 as little more than an abbreviated cannibalization of themes already covered to potent effect in The Shining (an accusation that may well be of merit if one is inclined to judge an artist on his earlier body of work), director Mikael Håfström and his screenwriting team deliver a solid little frightener that still proves malevolently unpredictable and comes off more like a feature-length Twilight Zone episode than a forgotten page out of the pop-horror specialist's formidable bibliography. Readers know that King's stories are frequently punctuated by tormented characters who stumble upon an inexplicable phenomenon that is initially beyond their comprehension but slowly overtakes every aspect of their existence -- and with his tragic past and hardened skepticism, supernatural debunker Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is the perfect King protagonist. Yet, despite the fact that Enslin is a character that virtually any King fan will instantly recognize, actor Cusack does well to inject the familiar King archetype with just enough identifiable human emotion to make him a believable person as well. Likewise, screenwriters Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski, and Matt Greenberg fare decidedly well in their efforts to toy with the viewer by subverting various ghost-story standards and drawing on the kind of nightmare logic that is sure to shake anyone who has struggled to awaken from a quickly worsening nightmare -- a tense scene on the ledge of a tall building being a decidedly potent example of this. Released into theaters at a time when many high-minded critics were vehemently lamenting the proliferation of such sadistic horror films as Hostel and Saw, 1408 draws on such classics as The Haunting and The Innocents in order to deliver supernatural thrills that never get too graphic for the future generation of horror enthusiasts.
by Jason Buchanan review